East celebrates the Inauguration
June 5, 2021
Every four years, on January 20th at 12 p.m. noon, America witnesses the inauguration of the President of the United States. As the next President and Vice President place their hand upon an item of ceremonial importance, Americans hover towards their television screens, travel to the Capitol in Washington DC, and brace themselves for what would become another presidential administration – marking history pages forever. The Inauguration plays an important role at Cherry Hill High School East as members of our community cast their votes every single year. However, for some alumni, like Adam Weiner (‘98), Representative Andrew Kim (‘00), and Joe Biden’s son-in-law Howard Krein (‘85), this year’s swearing-in of President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hit closer to home.
East graduate and performer headlines January 20 ceremonial event
With notable fans and countless inspirational highlights –– Cherry Hill East alum, Adam Weiner (‘98), who is only just beginning his journey, electrifies a powerful career. Encompassing his progressive Cherry Hill past of humanitarian and social justice values, combined with his love for performing, Weiner brimmed with success. Most recently, he and his band, Low Cut Connie, headlined President Biden’s “Home State Inauguration Event,” a virtual ball-equivalent program from the Pennsylvania and Delaware Democratic Parties.
“Lightning struck twice,” said Adam Weiner, who had already been to the White House in 2016 to meet President Obama after his song, “Boozophilia,” was placed on the first of Obama’s annual Summer Spotify playlists; a playlist that featured internationally-known artists and historical literary champions like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, now spotlighted the then “no-name band,” Low Cut Connie.
One day in 2020, when Weiner was doing “Tough Cookies”, the live stream series he started at the beginning of the pandemic to keep people’s spirits elevated and give some type of normalcy in live entertainment, Weiner was contacted by Joe Biden’s team who fervently enjoyed watching his live cast.
“On one broadcast I aired this commercial I had made called ‘Don’t be a Shmuck, Go Vote,’ which [the Biden team] liked and asked to use,” said Weiner, who then partnered and cooperated with the Biden team, as well as another voter-advocacy organization, in a voting-push initiative. Additionally, Biden, before the election, reached out and thanked the band, writing that he wants to see Low Cut Connie live when it is safe again –– prompting Weiner’s band to headline one of the Inauguration Day celebrations.
“My music and my performances have never been actively political,” said Weiner. “Over the past few years, my fan base grew and grew, and I have had the pleasure of traveling all over America… meeting people [of all looks, sexual orientations, and from all different demographic backgrounds] and [because of this, I have] become more engaged and learned a lot about this country and the people who live here. I felt it was important for me, especially because I had a captive audience, to do my part to sort of steer the country back onto a better path and away from the hate, [bigotry], and violence I was witnessing here in Philadelphia and seeing all over America.”
Back when Weiner’s musical performances were limited to D-Wing at East, Weiner took part in all of East’s plays, Battle of the Bands, talent shows, photography, East chorus, the Rotary Retreat, East’s Poetry Group, and served as the President of Thespian Society. In 1996, Weiner and his friend founded Cherry Hill East’s Gay-Straight Alliance –– one of the first GSA unions in New Jersey.
After graduating from East in 1998, Weiner went to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and took part in the Experimental Theatre Wing Program because he felt strongly about performing arts and acting. However, he soon realized that music and rock-and-roll were more of his calling than acting and Shakespeare.
Within the first weeks of his time in New York, Weiner got a job at a restaurant to play piano and perform, and this side-hustle soon spread to him playing piano at several bars and restaurants in the City that Never Sleeps. Weiner worked his talents hard and reached no success, but in 2010, with a group of friends, Weiner formed Low Cut Connie, and after persevering through the hate and disinterest –– it took off.
“This was a real turn of events because I had been trying so hard for so many years to have success as a performer, but it was not really happening. I had started to downshift on my passion –– I got a teaching job and moved around a lot –– but just as I let go a little, my new project, Low Cut Connie, had exploded and changed my life,” he said.
Low Cut Connie has grown from a band to essentially a solo project for Weiner since takeoff. The band has shifted gears, expanded, and has been characterized by a diverse rotating cast of performers by Weiner’s side.
In addition to his experiences with Biden and Obama, Weiner’s inspirational career has many other highlights, including experiences with fans of his –– like Elton John.
Four years ago, Elton John became interested in the band –– which soon led him to play some of Weiner’s songs on his radio show, call Weiner, and just when Weiner thought that was the end of their relationship, Elton John came to Philadelphia to perform –– inviting Weiner backstage to spend time together and dedicating a song to him on the mainstage.
“There has always been a lot of wonderful music coming out of Philadelphia –– ever since I could remember –– and there is a band that I love at the moment –– so much –– called Low Cut Connie –– who is also from Philadelphia –– and I would like to dedicate this song to them right now because I love them very much,” said John at a 2018 performance at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Hearing John promote Low Cut Connie’s music was a “you’ve made it” moment for Weiner. “I grew up with Elton John’s music –– emulating his piano, his vocals, his humor, and his fearless performance style,” said Weiner. “To have one of my heroes reach out to me –– it was really special.”
Additionally, at the beginning of the pandemic, when Weiner started his episodic and un-scripted live stream series, he received an assortment of videos and photographs of people at home, isolated Covid-patients, ICU nurses, and medical professionals in Philadelphia and New Jersey –– who were all suffering from the pandemic firsthand –– watching, dancing, and enjoying his show.
“It really changed my life –– it changed my whole view of what music can do, it’s changed my whole view of what my job is and what art can do for the world,” he said. Due to the positive feedback from the community and the change his show has brought, Weiner still continues to do his “Tough Cookies” show each week.
Weiner, who says he was never known as the best singer, persisted through the negativity to become an internationally-known artist who is listened to around the world. Combined with his passion and showman skills, Weiner learned to perform and create the best entertainment for all to listen to; taking his memorable experiences with him as he continues to create music and inspire many.
Congressman and East alum, Representative Kim, hopes for the future
On January 6th, 2021, Americans all over the country sat glued to their television screens, watching a hungry, ravenous disease spread in the US capital. Uncertainty raced across the nation, and panic flooded the streets. Anxious Americans from all walks of life watched their beloved country nearly torn apart at the seams, whilst insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building. Congressman Andy Kim (‘00), alongside his fellow Americans, watched democracy crumble.
Kim, an East Graduate and United States Representative of New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, was present on capitol grounds that fateful day. He recounts multiple bomb threats that were issued prior to the capital breach, but he could not have suspected what was to come. Once alerted rioters had entered the building, he immediately activated shelter-in-place procedures.
“It was just such a surreal experience in many ways,” said Kim. “We’re sitting in the rotunda right now, and it’s still hard for me to really walk around the capitol without thinking about just how bad things got that day.”
According to Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, rioters caused nearly 30 million dollars of damage to the building, not to mention led to the deaths of five people. Over 250 have been identified for their part in the insurrection as of March.
“As we walked through [the capitol], and to feel like it was being disrespected and desecrated, I’ll never forget that,” said Kim. “It just hit me on such a fundamental level, how much trouble we had that day.”
Despite being on capitol grounds at the time of the breach, Kim was not present on the House floor. Once conditions were safe, however, he withdrew from the Rayburn House Office Building to witness the aftermath of insurrection firsthand.
To Kim, the sight was utterly devastating. He claims the U.S. capitol is the most beautiful building in the country, and usually loves to see Americans traverse its halls. While Kim assumed protestors would cause disruptions, going as far as to ask his staff to stay home January 6th, he did not expect the extent to which things escalated.
“For several hours on January 6th the United States government was not in control of the United States Capitol,” said Kim. “That is just a very shocking, and crazy realization still, to this day.”
As events defused, a photo began circulating of Kim cleaning up trash left by rioters in the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall. Overwhelmed by an instinctual urge to help, he does not view his actions as extraordinary or worthy of recognition. Rather, to him they represent the desire of unification. A desire present in the hearts of most Americans.
“I had so many people reach out to me after January 6th– both Democrat and Republican– saying [the insurrection] does not represent our nation. We definitely have challenges ahead,” he said.
But with these challenges, Kim foresees a hopeful future. As an attendee of President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on January 20th, Kim was presented with a facet of America that stands in stark contrast to the one he confronted just two weeks prior. Welcoming the 46th President of the United States, he sat surrounded by patriotism and ambition.
“It was very refreshing to be able to try to replace some of those memories [of the capitol riots],” said Kim. “Not forget the memories, but be able to replace some of that with something that shows that our country is at work, shows the resilience of our nation, and that we’re able to continue with our democracy.”
Kim is eager to help strengthen the fabric of American society and urges students to do their part. He reflects on his time at East and remembers the important lessons of service his experiences taught him. Aside from just voting when students turn 18, Kim insists there is more that can be done.
“Make sure that we are staying engaged, that we’re staying informed, that we’re seeking the information from a diversity of sources, and being very thoughtful about [their] accuracy,” he said.
Certainly, everyone was impacted by the Capitol Riots in a unique way. However, as Americans, Kim encourages this commonality to fuel action.
“We’re all ordinary people trying to go about our work, and we happen to live in extraordinary times right now,” he said. “And now the question is, what do we want to do about that?”
Interview with Andy Kim:
Question 1: In terms of the events on January 6th, what were you doing when you were notified rioters had breached the capitol, and what was going through your mind?
Kim: I was on capitol grounds. I was notified about it and at first I didn’t know what was happening. I was not on the house floor, so I didn’t understand that potentially there was a potential breach at the capitol. We had had some bomb threats earlier in the day…I wasn’t sure if it was anything like that, but we were told immediately to shelter in place. And I’ve worked in Afghanistan and Iraq before, so when I get a shelter in place notice I know that is something that is very important to follow. Um, but ah yeah it was a lot to process. It was just such a surreal experience in many ways. I’m actually talking to you, we’re sitting in the rotunda right now, and it’s still hard for me to really walk around the capitol without thinking about just how bad things got that day.
Question 2:Would you say your relationship with the capitol building has shifted since January 6th, now that the potential security vulnerabilities are so evident?
Kim: No, I hope not. I don’t want my relationship with this building to be any different. You know, this building, it’s not just about my relationship with this building, it’s about the American people. I love seeing this building filled with Americans walking through the rotunda and just having the experience to marvel at such a remarkable building. I believe that this is the most beautiful building in the country. And, for me, I feel grateful to have the chance to work here each and every day. I feel safe here. And I know it’s going to have it’s challenges, and we’re going to make sure we take some safety precautions. But, my main concern right now is not about my relationship with the building, but the American people’s relationship with this building. And I hope to be able to, you know, make sure we preserve that going forward.
Question 3: Since you weren’t present in the capitol at the time of the attack, what was it like walking inside and seeing first-hand all the damage the rioters had caused?
Kim: Well, it was a lot. It was a lot to process. And I think for me, I really loved seeing how, you know, I loved seeing this building in its, you know, in its beauty and its perfection. As we walked through it, and to feel like it was being disrespected and desecrated, I’ll never forget that. I was sad about it. It just hit me on such a fundamental level, how much trouble we had that day…We want to make sure that as we’re doing the votes we need to do to certify the election, that we’re also doing what we need to to get the capitol back into shape, and to make sure that we are showing the American people and our democracy is resilient. So that was certainly a big part of it for me.
Question 4: Concerns of unrest caused by Trump’s rhetoric had been circling since before the riots happened. Even so, were the events of January 6th surprising to you, or did you expect some sort of disobedience to ensue?
Kim: I expected some unrest, and I had asked my staff to not come into work that day because I had suspected maybe there would be some unrest, but I never expected what actually happened…Insurrection is when they actually penetrate into the capitol building. I expected there to be maybe some unrest outside, but to get inside? To not just get inside, but to literally seize control of the building, for several hours. For several hours on January 6th the United States government was not in control of the United States capitol. That is just a very shocking, and crazy realization still, to this day. So that’s something that I still really think about.
Question 5: What compelled you to help clean up from the viral photo?
Kim: Well, I just wanted to do something. You know, it was really instinctual. I didn’t actually think about cleaning up, it was just something that I just started to do. You know, I saw this room, this room that I love, the United States rotunda, the capitol rotunda, and I just wanted to do something. And, so I just thought there’s a trash bag there, let’s start to clean up and do my part. So, it was for me, a very personal decision very quickly that I made that this was something I needed to do. Just literally roll up my sleeves and try to get this building back in order…I’m glad that I was able to do my part. I don’t necessarily think I deserve the attention that I got for it. But if it’s an action that gave some people some sense of hope, and gets them to think about what public service really means, I’m happy to do that.
Question 6: What was it like going from cleaning up trash in the damaged capitol building, to just days later attending President Biden’s inauguration?
Kim: Well, you know, it was definitely a lot of understanding on inauguration day. And I couldn’t help but to think about how, you know, the site of that inauguration, where we were standing and sitting, that was where the insurrectionists had been gathering and they took over the capitol just two weeks earlier. So, it was certainly something that weighed on our minds. But I think it was very refreshing to be able to try to replace some of those memories. Not forget the memories, but be able to replace some of that with something that shows that our country is at work, shows that resilience of our nation, and that we’re able to continue with our democracy and demonstrate that we are not going to be perturbed by people who are trying to disrupt the progress and process of our democracy. So, it felt very important for us to be able to make that kind of statement. It wasn’t just about attending the inauguration, the act in and of itself I felt was just a very important step.
Question 7: As someone who confronted these two conflicting facets of America– one being the damage at the capitol and the other being the patriotism from the inauguration– which would you say most accurately represents the whole of the country?
Well, I really do think that our country is very strong and resilient. And I had so many people reach out to me after January 6th– both Democract and Republican– saying that does not represent our nation. We definitely have challenges ahead. So, we have to understand the fact that we have deep problems and a lot of wounds that we need to work to heal. And it’s not guaranteed, we can’t just assume that we’re going to heal and move forward. It takes real concerned effort. But, I for one do believe that the images of our government are moving forward: the inauguration, the unity that we tried to demonstrate…these traditions and acts that have gone back to the founding of our nation. That is touching and so important now. So, I for one am hopeful about what happens next. It doesn’t mean I take anything for granted, I will be fighting hard to bring back that kind of healthing that our country needs. But I think the vast majority of Americans agree with that. They want to heal, they want to move this forward.
Question 8: How do you think we can repair the division in our country, and what are some ways ordinary students can help?
Well, I think that it takes a lot. We do need to make sure that we’re pushing hard and having accountability that we need to, whether it’s about January 6th or other acts that we endured. But a lot of it is just about trying to re-engage what it means to be American. What it means to be a citizen, what are our values here. And I certainly really encourage all of the students, whether at East or elsewhere, to think about it very carefully. Not just about the ability to vote, not just think about that element. Voting in our elections is certainly a critical part of our democracy, but it’s not the totality of our democracy and what responsibility citizens have. Make sure that we are staying engaged, that we’re staying informed, that we’re seeking the information from a diversity of sources, and being very thoughtful about the accuracy about that. We have a lot of misinformation happening in our society right now and we need to be careful about that. We have to check our own biases. We need to make sure that we’re thinking about what biases we’re coming at, what silos of information we might be engaged or involved in ourselves. Sometimes I have to do that myself. Just make sure that I am hearing from a variety of sources and opinions, and making up my own mind, not just falling back into some of the muscle memories that might not give me the full picture. And I think I’m not alone in my district. My district is a district where President Trump won twice, so I think about this a lot in terms of opinions and the differences of information in my own district. So I urge people to really just get engaged. And the last thing I’ll say is that Cherry Hill East, and some of the experiences I had there, and some of my experiences I had subsequently at my time there, taught me a lot about service and serving this country. That doesn’t mean that people have to work in government or work in military or be a civil servant, but those are all things I hope people consider. But it’s just about being of service to the country, [and that can be] in a number of ways. The doctors and the nurses and the healthcare professionals right now are on the front lines of the COVID crisis. They are serving our nation. People that are teaching in our schools and other places, teaching the next generation, that’s service to our country. And I hope that when we can cultivate that spirit of service in our nation going forward. And that’s something that I feel very strongly about, and I think that starts a lot in schools. Thinking about our civics education, thinking about the work that we do, the clubs that we participate in, the activities that we choose. And hopefully some of those will be ones that try to push towards this understanding of community and the idea of service.
Question 9: What advice do you have for East students who may be afraid to speak up or do what’s right in the face of injustice?
Look, I mean, I would just say…just inform them to really dig in and understand what does justice mean to us. To understand the history of those that have gone before. When I was a student at East that’s when I was first learning about the incredible work during the Civil Rights Movement and activists like John Lewis. And I think really, I idolized him. You know, he was a teenager when he started in the Civil Rights Movement, someone who was not much older than I was when I was at East, and he became an extraordinary figure that just inspired so many. And I had the great honor to be able to work alongside him in Congress for my last term. And what I came to realize is that John Lewis, as amazing as he was and his accomplishments, he was an ordinary man during extraordinary times. And I don’t say that to diminish what he accomplished…I think that that was very empowering for me, to see how he was, and to meet him in the flesh. So I just tell people, just don’t be intimidated. We’re all ordinary people trying to go about our work, and we happen to live in extraordinary times right now. And now the question is, what do we want to do about that? What is our role in that? And not everyone’s role is going to be the same. Not everyone can, or should, or wants to run for office or different things like that. But it’s just a matter of just trying to figure out what is the impact you want to make, and how do you realize that?
Cherry Hill East alum to the First Family: Howard Krein
From walking the halls of Cherry Hill East to walking side-by-side with President Biden during his inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House, Howard Krein (‘85), now a member of the United States First Family, spends his days as an Otolaryngology surgeon and professor in Philadelphia, the Chief Medical Officer of StartUp Health, traveling the world to help poverty-stricken and sick children, and married to Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley.
Additionally, Krein also co-founded Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Facial Aesthetic and Reconstructive Center in Philadelphia. Serving as a healthcare advisor to Biden through the years, Krein also served as Biden’s cancer moonshot initiative advisor and even helped shape healthcare policies for the Biden Presidential Campaign. However, President Biden said that there will be no family members employed by the White House during the Biden administration.
Marrying Ashley in 2012, Krein and Ashley Biden have tended to stay out of the spotlight of Joe Biden. Now, as The President’s daughter and son-in-law, Krein and Ashley Biden face more continuing pressure from the public and social media than ever before. Ashley was introduced to her husband through her late brother, Beau, and after a year together, he proposed.
Eastside has contacted Howard Krein (‘85) and is in the process of an interview. This story will be updated with more information.